Client love guide – estimates + proposals

Proposal vs estimate

When your business purpose is to help clients with custom or one-on-one services, odds are that you will need to provide either an estimate or proposal. They each have their pros + cons, and are even sent together for certain projects.


Estimates are more commonly sent because they are short, to the point + easier to put together. Estimates breakdown the estimated {see where the name comes from?} cost of the project, the project details + sometimes milestones or deliverables.
In order to set your business apart + show your potential clients why they should work with you, I can’t recommend putting details in your estimates enough. It helps keep things clear, protects both sides of the project before it starts + will preemptively answer questions.
Details I recommend including —

  • Your business contact info
  • Their business contact info
  • How long the estimate pricing is valid for
  • Whether the cost is a fixed fee or hourly
  • What exactly is included {use numbers, be specific}
  • Items that aren’t covered by the estimate {usually in the notes section}
  • Your hourly rate for scope creep

For example, when someone requests an estimate from me for web development, I list out the number of pages, page templates, plugins + features that are included in the price. That way there is no question about what is covered + what will be billed on top of the fee when the project wraps up.


Proposals are a much more in-depth document that not only covers estimate costs — usually 2 possible packages — but also the potential client’s pain points, how the suggested project will help solve the problem, referrals, company history, etc.
You can see why proposals take more time + aren’t commonly done by service-based entrepreneurs. However, they can be the difference between getting projects booked + stressing about how to pay your bills next month because some clients need that extra bit of confirmation to make the right choice.
When putting together your proposals, make sure you take some time to brand them but also show how excited you are about the project. That could mean a detailed but concise section about the potential client’s company history + how your plan will blend seamlessly with their company goals/culture/etc. Or maybe you include a section that literally explains why you are the best fit for this project. Sometimes playing it cool isn’t good for business.
Full disclosure: I don’t send proposals for the majority of the projects I’m asked for pricing on. The reason is that 9 times out of 10 the client is reaching out to me because they know that I’m their gal + a large proposal would be a waste of time for both sides.

Send proposals + estimates to your perfect match

While there are exceptions to every rule, it’s important to send proposals + estimates only to folks that are your ideal client + that you are able to help.
In the beginning of my business, I said yes to projects that weren’t my ideal peeps for the sake of getting experience + getting paid. I still provided top-notch service, but it may have felt a bit like pulling my own teeth at times, because it wasn’t for the folks I’m jazzed about helping.
So, the sooner you can get picky about your projects, the better it is. For both sides of the equation. Because all clients deserve someone who is ready to break into song + dance for them out of sheer giddiness over the project. And you deserve clients who shout your name from the rooftops because you rocked their world.

Tailor proposals + estimates to your contact

Just like you hope for the perfect ring {or other token of affection} from your partner during a romantic proposal, your estimates + business proposals should be custom to each client.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a template to start from — saving time is always recommended — but it does mean you shouldn’t be copying + pasting every word from the last one you sent, especially for proposals.
Like I mentioned above, your proposal could contain mega details about the company you are pitching to, their exact pain points + how your solution will make those a distant memory. But you could also add in their branding by including their logo or mixing in their company colors. Another great way is to select references that your future client relates to — like a company with a similar culture or matching pain points. If you are going to do the work of creating a multi-page proposal, why not make it knock their socks off too?
Customizing estimates is a little trickier, since they are usually one page + a lot less copy. The way I update my templates so that leads know I took the time to make it just for them is by including the company name or URL wherever possible. So instead of “custom WordPress development” as the description, I would put “custom WordPress info + blog site development for”.
Another great place is when you list out what’s included because you can note the specific features the company asked for in your emails + phone conversations. Listing out those details reminds them that you heard what they said, which unfortunately is not common in the online business world.
The next time you sit down to create an estimate or proposal, take 5 minutes to see where you can add one special touch. Those 5 minutes could mean the difference between getting the job or never hearing from that contact again.

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